The Southern Highlands boasts one of the greatest concentrations of magnificent private gardens in Australia. The grand old gardens planted from the latter part of last century are the districts heritage and visitors return each year to enjoy their beauty.
From early spring until the end of November the gardens are at their best with many of the private gardens open throughout the season.
Don't miss the much loved garden at Kennerton Green with its famous garden rooms and potager. Or Moidart, a gracious old garden with its sunken rose garden. At Redlands admire the handiwork of Paul Sorenson where he has created a woodland garden and for plant lovers Buskers End is a must, especially in November when the lupins create a riot of colour in the perennial border. For early and rare bulbs Hillview at Exeter is the garden to see and for roses you must visit Gowan Brae and Flagstaff Cottage in November. These are just a few of the gardens available for you to visit and there are many more for you to visit and many more open during the spring season.
Information on all the gardens open throughout the year is available from the Southern Highlands Visitors Information Centre – phone 1300 657 559 or visit their website.
Both the small collector and the investor searching for special pieces enjoy the popular collection of antique shops found on the Southern Highlands.
The Southern Highlands Antiques Fair is an annual event held at Bowral in Autumn and both Pepper's Manor House and the Mittagong Tourist Information Centre run lectures about antiques and antique appraisal days. The antique shops in the Southern Highlands are competitively priced and the variety is endless.
If contemporary art and craft is more appealing, there are several galleries in the highlands from Mittagong and Bowral to Bundanoon and Berrima. Paintings, prints and etchings, ceramics, sculptures and glass, jewelry, woodwork and textiles are all found displayed in light airy spaces. From local artists painting their visions of the Southern Highlands to renowned Australian artists interpreting their worlds, range and beauty of artworks to be found here is exhilarating.
Museums in the Southern Highlands take you on a journey into the past. At Berrima Courthouse you can encounter the isolation of the early European settlers and their attempts to impose law and order on a new colony. The local historical museum offers further into colonial settlement while Bowral Schoolhouse Museum takes you back to school days that were much tougher than those our children enjoy.
A different story awaits you at the Bradman Museum where you can relive the glories of Australian cricket. Share the dreams of our cricketing heroes and follow Sir Donald Bradman's footsteps as he grew up in Bowral.
One of the many special things about the Southern Highlands is that you don't have to travel far to discover many picturesque towns and villages, each with its own history and identity.
In Berrima you will find the sombre stone courthouse, now a museum, and tall stone prison walls as well as many historic inns, houses and churches. Today you can enjoy interesting shops and galleries, elegant restaurants and guest houses and lively inns and cafes, all in surroundings reminiscent of former times.
Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale are surrounded by gentle rural landscapes and dotted with graceful historic buildings. Wander around the antique shops, art galleries and fascinating shops looking for that something special. Enjoy a relaxing break at one of the many cafes or walk along the streets passing gracious houses and pretty gardens, picnic in Lake Alexandra in Mittagong or admire the panoramic views from Mt Gibraltar, locally known as the Gib.
Driving East along quiet country lanes you'll pass through enchanting villages such as Burrawong and Kangaloon. On the Eastern edge of the highlands, Fitzroy Falls and Robertson overlook forested valleys and the coast far below. When the mist rolls in the silence is enveloping; when it drifts away, the views are spectacular.
Adventurers can choose from abseiling, ballooning, caving, mountain biking and 4 Wheel Driving. For those who enjoy the natural pursuits at a slower pace, then bushwalking is perfect choice.
Train enthusiasts can take a trip on the Cockatoo Run or visit a model train exhibition. And those who will appreciate the annual Jazz Festival, or a visit to a local music machine memorabilia exhibit.
For those seeking a special break away then the annual Christmas in Winter is the perfect choice, the food is traditional, the atmosphere is unique and the temperature is perfect.
Horse Riding is also a great activity to partake of in the Southern Highlands. You can enjoy leisurely trail rides, or for the more experienced there are Fox Hunts, dressage, show jumping and 3 day eventing activities.
Festivals such as Bowral Tulip Time and Bundanoon Is Brigadoon are big draw cards for the Southern Highlands, with many thousands of visitors coming annually to see the ‘tulips' and ‘bagpipes'.
A stay in the Southern Highlands would not be complete without a delicious meal complimented by the perfect wine. Whether you prefer fine a la carte dining, country cooking, vegetarian wholefoods, Japanese sushi, woodfired pizza, Thai noodles, Peking duck, Lebanese falafel or Indian pakhoras, our restaurants have something to tempt you. And, there are plenty of locally produced foods to buy – jams, pickles, chutneys, and shortbread – take some home as a momento of your stay in the highlands.
In summer you can in fact visit a number of berry farms with all sorts of berries for summer desserts.
One of the most dramatic changes in the Southern Highlands over recent years has been the rapid growth of the wine industry. There are now well over 20 vineyards in the area, promising fine local wines and exciting cellar door sales. The cool climate of the Southern Highlands produces pinot noir and crisp, fresh white wine varieties.
From tumbling waterfalls and steep sandstone cliffs to limestone caves and colourful wildlife, the Southern Highlands has something for everyone whether you are seeking beauty and tranquillity or adventure and excitement.
In Morton and Budderoo national parks, splendid Fitzroy Falls cascades over sandstone escarpment, serene Belmore Falls drops into a calm pool below and untamed Carrington Falls rushes down to Kangaroo Valley. From the boardwalks and walking tracks at Fitzroy falls you can look out as far as you can see over rugged wilderness, across sparkling waterfalls and down into forested valleys.
Bird-lovers delight in crimson rosellas and yellow-tailed cockatoos calling in the tree tops while honeyeaters feed among the flowers and lyrebirds scratch the forest floor. Walking along the edge of a wetland in Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve you'll see black swans gliding over the water.
Bushwalkers enjoy many interesting and beautiful walks in the Highlands. Near Bundanoon, walking tracks in Morton National Park take you through scribbly gum woodlands and stringbark forests to waterfalls, ferny glades and even a coal mine hidden below the escarpment.
The Box Vale track near Mittagong follows an old train track over creeks, through steep-sided cuttings and under a tunnel where once coal was carted through the mine to Fitzroy Ironworks.
For those who want to go below the surface of the Highlands, a winding, breath taking drive brings you to Wombeyan Caves. Here you can wander on your own through the grand caverns of Figtree Cave or join a guided tour and clamber down into several underground corridors and caves.